Fri, Feb 02, 2001 - Page 10 News List

Restaurants of the week

This week we look at three restaurants in west-central Tainan.

By Steven Crook  /  CONTRIBUTING REPORTER

The Mexican dishes -- nachos, tacos and enchiladas -- are reasonably authentic and quite popular. Homesick Westerners looking for nothing more exotic than a cheeseburger and fries, or a decent sandwich, will not be disappointed with the substantial versions of these classics here.

The choice of desserts is limited to crepes and a homemade baked pudding, but the helpings are generous.

Some of the regular customers hide out on the roof, where there are sofas and armchairs, as well as tables. The view is nothing special, but Tainan's dry, warm climate makes this a pleasant place to hang out for an afternoon.

Slack Season Tantsi Noodles

16 Jungjeng Rd. (06)223-1744. Average meal:NT$70 per person. Open 11am to 9:30pm(approximately). No English menu. Credit cards not accepted.

Tainan is renowned throughout Taiwan for its cheap and delicious snacks. Few dishes are more popular than "tantsi mien," and no tantsi vendor is more famous than this one, which is currently run by a third-generation descendant of its founder, Hung Yu-tou.

Hung, the recipe's putative inventor, was a 19th century fisherman who sold noodles during the typhoon season, when the seas where too rough for fishing -- hence the eatery's name. Before opening his own establishment, he carried the noodles and other ingredients to market in baskets suspended from a shoulder yoke called a tantsi -- hence the dish's name.

Tantsi mien differs from other noodle dishes in that the meat sauce poured over the noodles includes garlic, a kind of soybean vinegar, bean sprouts, fresh coriander leaves, and in the case of this eatery, a single shrimp.

The result is a beguiling taste which, strangely, fails to impress many diners at the moment of initial consumption, but soon has them hankering to return. Customers are offered a choice of mi-fen (rice noodles) or conventional wheat noodles. Side dishes such as sausages and hard-boiled "iron eggs" are available. This is just as well, because the portions served at Slack Season are small, and by the inexpensive standards of Taiwan noodle joints, somewhat dear.

However, the food here is something special, and gourmets who usually steer clear of Taiwan's noodle vendors -- for culinary or sanitary reasons -- should give serious thought to eating at this welcoming and spotlessly clean restaurant. The Hung family also operates a Taipei branch at 26 Alley 5 Lane 170 Chunghsiao East Rd. Sec. 4.

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